General Studies IIIInternal Security

Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO)

Why in news?

Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), Delhi based DRDO laboratory, handed over Rakshita, a bike-based casualty transport emergency vehicle to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)  \ in a ceremony held at CRPF HQ in New Delhi on 18 January 2021. DS & DG (LS), DRDO, Dr AK Singh handed over the model of Rakshita to DG CRPF, Dr AP Maheshwari, followed by the flagging off the contingent of 21 bikes on the occasion.

About DRDO
  • DRDO is the R&D wing of Ministry of Defence, Govt of India,
  • Its vision to empower India with cutting-edge defence technologies and a mission to achieve self-reliance in critical defence technologies and systems, while equipping our armed forces with state-of-the-art weapon systems and equipment in accordance with requirements laid down by the three Services. 
  • DRDO was formed in 1958 from the amalgamation of the then already functioning Technical Development Establishment (TDEs) of the Indian Army and the Directorate of Technical Development & Production (DTDP) with the Defence Science Organisation (DSO). DRDO was then a small organisation with 10 establishments or laboratories
  • Several major projects for the development of missiles, armaments, light combat aircrafts, radars, electronic warfare systems etc are on hand and significant achievements have already been made in several such technologies.
  • Design, develop and lead to production state-of-the-art sensors, weapon systems, platforms and allied equipment for our Defence Services.
  • Provide technological solutions to the Services to optimize combat effectiveness and to promote well-being of the troops.
  • Develop infrastructure and committed quality manpower and build strong indigenous technology base.

Ground Based, Ship Borne, Air Borne & Manportable Radar Systems

  • Rajendra Radar for AKASH Weapon System for IAF & Indian Army
  • 3D Surveillance Radars for IAF, Indian Army & Navy – Rohini, 3DTCR & Revathi
  • Man portable Radars for IAF & Indian Army – Bharani, Aslesha, BFSR
  • Radars for Low Intensity Conflicts – Ground Penetration Radars & Through Wall Imaging Radars
  • Active Phased Array Radars – Medium Power Radar (MPR) – Arudhra, Low Level Transportable Radar (LLTR) – Ashwini.

Ground Based, Ship Borne & Air Borne COMINT, ELINT & EW Systems

  • Programme SAMYUKTA – Integrated EW System for Plains & Deserts for Indian Army.
  • Programme SANGRAHA – Family of EW suites for different Naval Platforms
  • Advanced ESM System for Capital naval ships (VARUNA)
  • Internal Electronic Warfare (EW) System for Radar Warning and Jamming (RWJ) for upgraded MiG-29 platform Multi-Emitter
  • Production model of Ground Based Mobile ELINT System

EO equipment

  • Electro optics based Border Surveillance System
  • Driver Night Sight (DNS)
  • Light Weight Portable Laser Target Designator (LWPLTD)

Directed Energy Laser Systems

  • Tactical grade 2kW and 10kW Directed Energy Laser systems

Laser Based Instruments & Laser Sources

  • Ruggedized 1 kW Fibre Laser Source.
  • OTL 300
  • Explosive Identifier systems for detection of explosives
Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP)
  • IGMDP was brain child of renowned scientist Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
  • It was intended to attain self-sufficiency in the field of missile technology.
  • After keeping in mind the requirements of various types of missiles by the defense forces, the program recognized the need to develop five missile systems.
  • The IGMDP formally got the approval of Indian government on July 26, 1983.
  • It brought together the country’s scientific community, academic institutions, R&D laboratories, industries and the three defence services in giving shape to the strategic, indigenous missile systems.

The missiles developed under IGMDP are:

  1. Short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile – Prithvi
  2. Intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile – Agni
  3. Short-range low-level surface-to-air missile – Trishul
  4. Medium-range surface-to-air missile – Akash
  5. Third generation anti-tank missile – Nag

The Agni, which was initially conceived as a technology demonstrator project in the form of a re-entry vehicle, was later upgraded to a ballistic missile with different ranges. Dr. Kalam played a major role in the development and operationalisation of Agni and Prithvi missiles.

After achieving the goal of making India self-reliant in missile technology, DRDO on January 8, 2008, formally announced successful completion of IGMDP.

Missile System of India
Agni ISingle stage, solid fuel, Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM).Using solid propulsion booster and a liquid propulsion upper stage.Range of 700-800 km.
Agni IIIntermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).Range more than 2000 km.
Agni IIITwo stage IRBMSupport a wide range of warhead configurations.Strike range of more than 2,500 Km
Agni IVTwo stage missile powered by solid propellant.Can fire from a road mobile launcher.Range is more than 3,500 km.Equipped with indigenously developed ring laser gyro and composite rocket motor.
Agni VThree-stage solid fueled, indigenous Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).Capable of carrying 1.5 tonnes of nuclear warheads.Latest and most advanced variant in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.After induction in the military, India will join an exclusive club of countries like the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain which have intercontinental ballistic missile capability.Canister launches missile system for operational flexibility.Range is more than 5,000 km.
TrishulShort-range, quick reaction, all weather surface-to-air missile designed to counter a low level attack.Has necessary electronic counter-measures against all known aircraft jammers.
AkashMedium-range, surface-to-air missile with multi-target engagement capability.Multiple warheads capable.High-energy solid propellant and ram-rocket propulsion system.
NagThird generation ‘fire-and-forget’ anti-tank missile with a range of 4-8km.Developed indigenously as an anti-armour weapon employing sensor fusion technologies for flight guidance.HELINA (Helicopter Launched NAG) is the air-to-surface version of the NAG integrated into Dhruv Helicopters.
PrithviFirst indigenously built ballistic missile under IGMDP.Surface-to-surface battle field missile.Demonstrates higher lethal effects and high level capability with field interchangeable warheads.Range from 150 km to 300 km.
BrahMosSupersonic cruise missile.Being developed with Russia as a private joint-venture.Multi-platform cruise can strike from various types of platforms.Among the world fastest supersonic cruise missiles with speeds ranging between Mach 2.5 – 2.8.A ‘fire and forget’ weapon i.e. requiring no further guidance from the control centre once the target has been assigned.
NirbhaySubsonic missile, supplement to the BrahMos.Capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air.A terrain hugging, stealth missile capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements.Can reach up to 1,000 km.
SagarikaSubmarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)Being integrated with India’s nuclear powered Arihant-class submarine.Range – 700 km.
ShauryaA variant of the K-15 Sagarika.Submarine- nuclear-capable missile.Aims to enhance India’s second-strike capability.
DhanushSea-based, short-range, liquid propellant ballistic missile.Naval version of Prithvi II.Maximum range 350 km.
AstraBeyond-visual-range air-to-air missile using a solid-propellant.In terms of size and weight, one of the smallest weapon developed by the DRDO.Active radar seeker to find targets.Electronic counter-measure capabilities.Designed to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds in the head-on mode at a range of 80 km.
PrahaarIndia’s latest surface-to-surface missile with a range of 150 km.Primary objective is to bridge the gap between the unguided Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher and the guided Prithvi missile variants.Have high maneuverability, acceleration and accuracy.
Issues with DRDO
  • The Standing Committee on Defence during 2016-17, expressed concerns over the inadequate budgetary support for the on going projects of DRDO.
  • The committee notes that out of total defence budget, the share of DRDO was 5.79 per cent in 2011-12, which reduced to 5.34 per cent in 2013-14.
  • Government’s lethargic revenue commitments towards DRDO have put major projects involving futuristic technology on hold.
  • The DRDO also suffers from inadequate manpower in critical areas to the lack of proper synergy with the armed forces.
  • Cost escalation and long delays have damaged the reputation of DRDO.
  • Even after 60 years of DRDO formation, India still imports a large share of its defence equipments. In the period 2013-17, India is the world’s largest importer of defence equipment, accounting for 12% of the global total, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  • DRDO’s list of successes is short- primarily the Agni and Prithvi missiles. Its list of failures is much longer. The Kaveri Engine is running late by 16 years and the cost has escalated by around 800 per cent.
  • DRDO is big on promise and small on delivery. There is no accountability. Nobody is taken to task for time and cost overruns.
  • In 2011, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) put a serious question mark on DRDO’s capabilities. “The organisation, which has a history of its projects suffering endemic time and cost overruns, needs to sanction projects and decide on a probable date of completion on the basis of a conservative assessment of technology available and a realistic costing system,” its report stated.
  • The CAG report also revealed that not all technologies developed by DRDO were suitable for use by the armed forces. The three services have rejected 70 per cent of the products developed at the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, in the last 15 years costing Rs 320 crore because the products did not meet their standard and requirement.
  • The technology development agency is also largely responsible for the fact highlighted by General V.K. Singh that 97 per cent of the army’s air defence is obsolete.
  • DRDO is just tinkering with World War II equipment instead of working on cutting-edge technology.
  • Even if systems are acquired from abroad and DRDO is meant to service them, if it fails. This leaves critical gaps in national defence.
Way Forward
  • DRDO should be restructured in a leaner organisation as suggested by the committee chaired by P. Rama Rao for external review of the agency in February 2007.
  • The committee also recommended for setting up a commercial arm of the organisation to make it a profitable entity, besides cutting back on delays in completing projects.
  • DRDO former chief V.K. Saraswat has called for the setting up of a Defence Technology Commission as well as a bigger role for DRDO in picking production partners for products developed by the agency.
  • DRDO should be able to select a capable partner company from the outset, from the private sector if necessary.
  • DRDO has taken some steps in the direction as it is considering long-term contracts with Indian information technology (IT) vendors such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) to build software solutions for defence projects, shifting its strategy of awarding deals to the lowest bidders on short-term projects.
  • DRDO’s move to outsource is a right move and will open lot of opportunities benefiting the Indian companies.
  • In Its document “DRDO in 2021: HR Perspectives’’, DRDO has envisaged a HR policy which emphasized on free, fair, and fearless Knowledge Sharing, Open book management style and Participative Management.

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